There is a growing trend amongst conservative evangelical and charismatic (and even anglo-catholic) ECUSA and ACC (Anglican Church of Canada) congregations. It is to declare themselves “fatherless” and looking for an adoptive father in Africa who has a black face – looking for an African bishop or archbishop as a “father in God” who is in a province that is part of the Anglican Communion.
Several African bishops seem happy to take on this role as father of mostly white children and in doing so they have caused distress in the House of Bishops of the ECUSA and of the ACC. Emphasizing the Anglican Primates' agreement that "bishops are to respect the boundaries of one another's dioceses and provinces," the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, Frank T Griswold, recently sent a letter of concern to the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda, Henry L Orombi, after a third Southern California congregation recently aligned with the Ugandan Diocese of Luweero. Presiding Bishop Griswold also issued the following statement to the media:
"I am saddened by the action of clergy and members of three congregations in
the Diocese of Los Angeles and their desire to separate themselves from the
life of the Episcopal Church. I know how assiduously Bishop Bruno has sought
to be a minister of reconciliation and a pastor to those of all views within
the life of the Diocese of Los Angeles and its 147 diverse congregations.
"I have written to the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda
expressing my concern that he claims jurisdiction within the boundaries of the
Episcopal Church. The bishops of the Anglican Communion and the Primates in
their statement of last October have made it clear that bishops are to respect
the boundaries of one another'sdioceses and provinces. Living in communion with
one another involves not only the sharing of a common faith in the Risen Lord
but how we treat and respect one another in the Body of Christ."
Technically, Griswold is right. The African bishops of Uganda and elsewhere are breaking the rules and this is especially poignant since the Archbishop’s Commission looking into the sexuality crisis has not yet reported (due October 04). Why could they not wait until November?, it is being asked.
The African bishops justify their action, apparently, on the basis that the ECUSA in general, and specific bishops in the USA and Canada in particular, are encouraging the blessing of gay partners and ordaining persons in gay commitments. And this itself is against the Bible and against agreements at the Lambeth Conference and in the Primates’ Meetings. The promotion of the Gay agenda locally in the USA or Canada leads to a conservative parish in Los Angeles or Vancouver breaking with its local bishop and becoming “fatherless”; and then it looks for “a father in God” from those who are the most outspoken against the LesBiGay agenda of the ECUSA and the ACC, the African bishops of Africa but north of South Africa.
1. This looking for an adoptive Father in God from Africa will probably continue and if the Archbishop’s Commission (as is expected) says little that is truly practically realistic and helpful, then it will cease to be a few and will become many parishes.
2. We are surely to believe that this Adoption is not permanent but is more like Fostering. Let us think of the African bishops as foster fathers to these congregations, and being so until they find a way in the not too far distant future to integrate into some genuine Anglican diocese in North America with its own local bishop.
3. We have to view this development with some concerns and I list several of them below.
First, the Anglican scene in the USA and Canada is being controlled more and
more by centrifugal forces as it is becomes more divided. There are few
genuinely centripetal forces at work to bring reconciliation, cooperation and
commonality. We can all agree that individual congregations with bishops far
away is not an ideal situation.
Secondly – and here I hope not to be misunderstood – the African bishops are terrific on such themes as biblical authority, evangelization, church extension, joyful service and opposition to active homosexuality. In fact, they tend to see homosexuality as so wrong that anyone who like them opposes it is a friend, whatever his actual views on the Trinity, the Incarnation, Grace and Salvation.
In general, the bishops so point to the Bible that they take for granted that the Prayer Book being used in any Anglican dioceses is fine (the reason for this is that their background is the use of the classic BCP 1662 in English or in a local African language). Thus they see the title “BCP” on the ECUSA Prayer Book and they assume it is doctrinally in accord with the classic BCP of 1662. How wrong they are! They do not realize that this American book has all kinds of deficiencies in terms of
what may be called historic Anglican standards of doctrine of God, Christ and
Salvation (see further Tarsitano & Toon, Neither Orthodoxy nor Formulary.
The 1979 Liturgy , from 1-800-727-1928 or http://www.anglicanmarketplace.com/ ). The African bishops do not seem to be aware just how much the ECUSA was infected with heresy and error before the homosexual agenda prevailed in 2003.
Thirdly – and here I hope once again not be misunderstood – the African
bishops do not realize (and I suspect do not really want to know) just how
deeply the divorce culture has affected even the “conservative congregations” in
North America and also that the clergy serving them are in the same boat. If
they did they would surely call for some obvious moves to turn this around and
to set the churches on a more wholesome view and practice of sexual relations.
Further, they do not seem to see the connection between the presence of the
divorce culture as a preparing of the way for the entrance of the LesBiGay
Fourthly, there is an over-use of the word “orthodox” used by
the conservatives of their own position in opposition to the local ECUSA or ACC
bishop. They would be better using the word “conservative” for, as I have sought
to demonstrate elsewhere, neither the ECUSA 1979 Prayer Book nor the Canadian
BAS of 1985 are by classical standards “orthodox” and in general the
conservative congregations use these books for their worship and as their
standards of doctrine. Opposing the LesBiGay agenda makes one a conservative not
necessarily an orthodox churchman!
Let us all pray that in God’s providence there will come out of the present huge mess of Anglicanism in North America a unified witness. Happily there are sanctified souls in all of the fragmented parts praying for the revelation of the glory of the Lord and unity in his Name and for his sake.
Let us pray specifically that the Archbishop’s Commission will at this late hour be given heavenly wisdom to offer practical solutions based upon sound principles and which honor the Lord our God.
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon August 28 2004